Suburban Hell
August 14, 2022

Book Review

Suburban Hell

reviewed by Pam Guynn

Maureen Kilmer’s debut horror novel was a winner for me. While I don’t read many horror novels, this one is lite horror with plenty of suspense, some humor, and relatable main characters.

When Amy Foster and her family left Chicago for the suburb of Winchester, Illinois, she soon found friends in neighbors Liz, Jess, and Melissa. None of them fit in with the “in” crowd of school moms, but they bonded. During a monthly get-together, the four planned a clubhouse for Liz’s backyard. It would be a space just for them. No spouses or children allowed. However, the home-improvement project doesn’t go well and a demonic force is released. Burn marks, dying grass, self-moving objects, and horrible smells are only the beginning. Fighting the evil spirit becomes a necessity. But who is stronger?

The story is told from Amy’s point of view. The main characters are well-rounded with traits that develop and change as the story progresses. The author was able to show how each brought something unique to their relationship. They felt like typical suburban moms with typical problems including arranging play dates for the kids, planning community and school events, dealing with neighborhood politics, trying to find some time for themselves, and balancing work, housework, looking for a job, dealing with the homeowner’s association, cleaning house, etc. However, when one of them is in trouble, who will be there for them?

Initially, the story is interesting but a little slow-paced. However, this changes as readers approach the fourth chapter. By then, we’re familiar with the four main families, and have a good sense of the relationships between them and with others in the neighborhood. I felt the emphasis on how a group’s dynamics changes when one person is missing or changes personality was especially understandable. It mixes the mundane with the important and throws in the supernatural to create suspense, danger, and drama. Themes include friendship, isolation, good versus evil, work/life balance, community support, and much more.

Overall, this was a well-plotted, moving, and clever story that built momentum, moved well, created a few startling moments, and built suspense as it moved to its dynamic conclusion and an epilogue that makes one think there will possibly be a second book. I recommend the novel to those that enjoy lite horror, realistic and relatable characters, some suspense, and a side order of snarkiness. It was an amusing and fun read and I can’t wait to see what the author pens next.

PENGUIN GROUP Putnam – G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Maureen Kilmer provided complimentary a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley as well as a paperback copy. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for August 30, 2022.

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